Title IX marks 50th anniversary and lasting effects on campuses today

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Title IX is a federal equity law and prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex or gender.

It reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Initially, Title IX received the most attention for its impact on athletics, especially at the collegiate level. It opened the door for NCAA women’s competition, and women’s participation in sports has grown steadily since then. The U.S. Department of Education notes that just seven percent of high school girls participated in athletics at the time of Title IX’s passage, and now more than 40 percent participate.

Elaine Coll was a pioneer in NCAA Division III athletics and founded the modern-day women’s intercollegiate athletic program at Ripon College in 1973. During her 20-year career at Ripon, she coached volleyball, basketball and track and field.

“Girls and women had had few opportunities to play sports before then,” she said. “Title IX granted them access to participate in scholastic and intercollegiate athletics. They were granted court time, uniforms, professional referees, travel and competition with other girls and women.

“The upshot of both Title IX and equal opportunity was to allow girls and women and their coaches to develop athletic programs similar in number and scope to that of men. Ripon College helped me to begin the process. It was, for me, a dream come true.
Although not perfect, opportunities for girls and women continue to increase.”

Ripon College, a member of the Midwest Athletic Conference, has 10 women’s varsity teams and a large percentage of female students playing intramural sports or engaging in regular fitness programs.

In the early 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination applied to sports and sexual harassment. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued guidelines on sexual harassment, and Title IX now is often associated with issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ+ community members.

According to Michele Wittler, Ripon College’s Title IX coordinator, the law affirms and supports the fundamental values of Ripon College, which include fostering an environment of respect for the dignity and worth of all members of the college community. In addition to providing educational programming and other campus resources, the College provides processes to address concerns, in accordance with the law.

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50th Anniversary of Title IX